The Japanese government has confirmed that it will phase out nuclear power in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that led to the Fukushima crisis last year, according to media reports.
In the first major energy review since the disaster, the government outlines plans to shut down the country’s reactors as they reach the end of their 40-year lifespan and not to build any replacement reactors.
Before the disaster, Japan generated around 30% of its energy from nuclear power. But in the surge of public concern about the energy source, Japan now plans to replace that capacity with increase renewables and a 10% cut in energy usage compared with 2010 levels.
But in the short term, while energy efficiency measures kick in and new renewables capacity is built, Japan – like Germany which has also pledged to phase out nuclear power – will be more heavily reliant on fossil fuels.
Nevertheless, the move has been welcomed by environmental groups. Friends of the Earth’s Head of Campaigns Andrew Pendleton commented:
“Fukushima reminded the world how risky nuclear power can be – Japan’s landmark move sends a strong signal to other nuclear powers.”
Pendleton suggests that the UK should follow suit because of the high costs of nuclear power and the large renewable resources available to the country.
“[Energy Secretary] Ed Davey must ditch costly gas and new nuclear and switch to clean British energy from our wind, sun and sea – providing thousands of new jobs,” he says.
Meanwhile, nuclear analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Chris Gadomski, says the decision is a pragmatic one for Japan, given its seismic history and population density.
“The nuclear industry paradigm is changing for developed economies. Instead of large nuclear reactors, utilities will be more interested in small modular reactors that incorporate passive safety features, can better withstand seismic events, and more easily integrate into a utility’s load with increasing shares of renewable technologies. The Japanese policy shift may in fact speed commercial development of innovative small nuclear reactors,” he suggests.
For further information:
E.ON and RWE npower drop UK nuclear development plans (29-Mar)
Nuclear power needed to keep Britain’s lights on, says report (15-Mar)
Belgium could join other European nations scrapping nuclear power (1-Nov 2011)
Siemens follows German lead pulling plug on nuclear power (21-Sept 2011)
17 September 2012